ASBP: Got Blood? Navy Mom Did … From Her Own Donation!
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Got Blood? Navy Mom Did … From Her Own Donation!

06/26/2017
By Jeffery Diffy, ASBP Blood Donor Recruiter, North Chicago, Ill.
Jenniefer O’Rarden (right) and her family are frequent blood donors.  Eleven years ago, she needed blood transfusions and received her own donated blood on her way back to a full recovery.
Jenniefer O’Rarden (right) and her family are frequent blood donors. Eleven years ago, she needed blood transfusions and received her own donated blood on her way back to a full recovery.
Jennifer O’Rarden is a Navy veteran and a Navy mom. She is also a 50 gallon blood donor, and counting. But rolling up her sleeve to donate isn’t her only experience with the importance of blood donations. Eleven years ago, she needed a transfusion following a medical diagnosis. However, since her blood type is not always easy to locate, blood products from other local health facilities had to be used. In the search for a matching blood type, some of her own donated blood was located and used in her transfusions. This is her story.

“The first time I learned of my blood type was in a 10th grade anatomy and physiology class,” O’Rarden said. “When I reported the results to my teacher, he said ‘get another sample ready, Jennifer. I don’t believe you.’”

O’Rarden’s blood type is AB-negative. Only about 1 percent of the U.S. population has AB-negative blood. AB-positive and AB-negative donors are the rarest blood type at only 4 percent combined.Type AB donors are known as “universal plasma donors” since their plasma can be given to anyone regardless of blood type. For that reason, type AB plasma is often used in emergency situations before a person’s exact blood type can be determined.

“My teacher suggested that as soon as I was old enough, I donate blood as a result of my blood type being rare. I became a regular blood donor, donating as regularly as I could and I even received a 50 gallon award in my early 20s,” she said. “When I joined the Navy in 1987, and was stationed with the VX-9 Vampires at China Lake, California, I continued to donate blood.”

A few years after separating from active duty, O’Rarden moved to Utah and continued to donate blood. Before she had an elective surgery, her doctor suggested that she donate blood for herself because the blood bank at the local hospital was low on her blood type.

“After surgery, I continued to donate regularly; but I began having them store every other pint donated for myself, just to be safe,” she said. “Fast forward to the early 1990s, and I was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. Because of my blood type and the rigorous course of chemotherapy that lied ahead, my doctors got all my stored blood transferred to the clinic in case I should need it.”

And she did.

“I received a blood transfusion, a plasma transfusion and also a platelet transfusion from my own blood!” she said.

Her son, Seaman Recruit Christian O’Rarden graduated boot camp several months ago and is now serving with duty as the ceremonial guard in Washington D.C.  He had intended to attend “A” school, but the Navy selected him for this prestigious position instead. Jennifer O’Rarden’s influence during her years serving as an aviation maintenance adminstrationman is apparent through her son’s success early in his career.

“It was very rewarding knowing that I was able to help myself as well as the countless other people to whom I had provided this lifesaving donation,” she said. “Because I understand how important the gift of life is, I, and all of my children that are able, routinely donate blood and plasma and are also registered organ donors. The 30 minutes it takes us to donate blood provides so much more back to someone else, so why wouldn’t we continue the family tradition.”  

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest.  Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.